Neuroscience: Understanding the Human Body's Command Center
The neuron is the unit of communication of the nervous system, and a foundation for the biological basis of behavior. But how do we get from the small changes in electrical activity seen in a neuron to differences in the way we perceive and act? The relationships between cellular activity and responses to stimuli in the world are what make neuroscience an exciting and interdisciplinary field of research.
Students will engage in a combination of class lectures and lab-based activities in an exploration of the structure and function of the neuron, how we measure neural activity in humans, and how this relates to human behavior. Through the use of electroencephalography (EEG), students will observe and measure their own neural responses to stimuli, and answer research questions common to the discipline of cognitive neuroscience.
In small research groups, students will be given the opportunity to conduct experiments and present their findings to peers. Over the course of the two weeks, students will get hands-on experience in not only measuring human electrophysiology, but also in the analysis and presentation of EEG data, and a window into the kinds of questions that neuroscience is poised to answer: How do our brains change as we get older, and how does that relate to how we learn and remember things? How do we process information as we're distracted by things around us? How does the brain form predictions about what we expect to see or hear at any given time? How can we help people who have suffered brain damage in recovering lost function?
Vanessa Chan is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Psychology at Notre Dame, and serves as an advisor to the Neuroscience and Behavior major as well as teaching courses related to cognitive neuroscience. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in psychology and her B.Sc. from McGill University in neuroscience. Her research interests revolve around the neural and cognitive mechanisms of sound processing, particularly related to complex auditory stimuli such as speech and music.